In May, members of Vinyl Me, Please Rap & Hip Hop will receive an exclusive 25th anniversary pressing of Snoop Doggy Dogg's landmark debut, Doggystyle. A classic in G-funk, it's a timeless album that features hits that can still rock a party in 2018 ("Gin and Juice" and "Who Am I (What's My Name)" chief among them). The first vinyl reissue in the states since the early '00s, this 25th anniversary edition comes on brown and mint splattered vinyl, and newly mastered for vinyl from the original analog reels by Chris Doremus at Penguin Recording. This is a must-own for rap fans. Read below for some background on the album, and sign up here. For the first time, you can sign up for just Vinyl Me, Please Rap & Hip-Hop.
From what felt like a faraway land, disconnected from the boroughs and blocks that brought hip-hop to fruition, the early '90s showed us the West had something to say. Emerging from the haze of Death Row Records came a lanky Long Beach Crip named Snoop Doggy Dogg: barely breaking into his 20s, captivating the world by reclining into his reality. In the tail end of '92, he became the standout of Dr. Dre’s The Chronic: an album which will be canonized as required listening for the West Coast G-funk standard. Eleven months later, Snoop’s instant-classic debut album Doggystyle debuted on the Billboard 200 at No. 1, selling more than 800,000 copies, and setting a record for fastest and best-selling debut LP by a rapper. The landmark effort would be canonized soon after, and vilified all the same as a centerpiece in the incoming Gangsta Rap phenomenon sweeping American culture. It went platinum in under six months, and made Snoop an instant superstar.
Enter Snoop Dogg: a voice too smooth for its time, and harsh enough to rewind. Just a couple years removed from his full-time crimewave days, on his coming out party, he’s flanked by the usual suspects—Tha Dogg Pound, Daz & Kurupt, The Lady of Rage, Warren G, and more—but he’s never dethroned from the star of the show because he plays his role with an unmatched menace. With Dr. Dre on the boards for every song, the Doggystyle universe creeps slow through a Long Beach night and pulverizes the speakers at the kickback in a mere breath, extending the sonic narrative of The Chronic into a new journey. Snoop’s not the most lyrically dexterous, he’s not the most visibly threatening, but the menace plays off the coolness that’s believable without the extra aggrandizing. On a regular day, he’s the homeboy everyone has: he drinks and smokes, fights and fucks, and can catch a bullet without a name like anybody else. But when Calvin Broadus, Jr., delves deeper into the Dogg, he ponders forgiveness for his trespasses, and pines for the solutions to the madness he knows. It’s the gangsta’s equilibrium we know from the best of hip-hop, walking every side of every line to find the real in the ugly.
Doggystyle is the type of album that made politicians steamroll jewel cases in the street, that made C. Delores Tucker speak, that had hoods and suburbs entrenched in the same beat. The Snoop we know today is the neighborhood OG, a gatekeeper and a family man. But when the press fixated as the public gyrated, critiques of Doggystyle’s sometimes misogynistic, often violent subject matter were commonly met with the simple retort of being “real.” The lyrics were real in the sense of: it really be like that sometimes, shit gets really real, and the depictions of real circumstances of survival in a nation of calculated Black neglect won’t always come with a nice-looking bow on top. In reality, beauty and ugliness mesh perfectly, but the ugly Snoop and his contemporaries knew became the frame for another American debate on who’ll bear the blame for it all (the rappers, as always). Twenty-five years since its release, as we grapple with the same questions about rap lyrics we had back then, the Snoop from '93 won’t have the answers we need. But it’s important to look at the beauty and the ugly for all they are, reckoning with where we’ve been as a piece of where we’re headed. Proceed to Doggystyle’s frequency, and don’t expect any of it to come easy.
Michael Penn II (aka CRASHprez) is a rapper and a former VMP staff writer. He's known for his Twitter fingers.
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